USAF exercises options for WGS satellites
The US Air Force (USAF) has exercises its option for Boeing’s Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite contract, that will see the company produce satellites 8 and 9 to expand the WGS constellation. The combined value of the production options is $673 million and forms part of a $1.09 billion contract modification announced by the USAF in September 2011.
WGS-8 and -9 will join four other satellites that are part of the Block II series. Block II adds a switchable radio frequency bypass that enables the transmission of airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery at data rates approximately three times greater than the rates available on Block I satellites. The satellites give warfighters ‘the ability to ensure that vital communication links are available at all times, even in the event that one or more critical nodes are disabled’.
WGS-9 is being funded through a cooperative agreement that the USAF has forged with Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and New Zealand. This expands the WGS international partnership beyond WGS-6, which was funded by the Australian government in 2008.
WGS satellites are built on the proven Boeing 702HP platform, which features highly efficient xenon-ion propulsion, deployable thermal radiators, and advanced triple-junction gallium-arsenide solar arrays that enable high-capacity, flexible payloads. The WGS communications payload has unique flexibility that is important to the military, as well as the ability to interconnect terminals that operate in different frequency bands and to reposition coverage beams based on evolving mission needs. WGS supports missions including tactical communications to and between ground forces, and relaying data and imagery from airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
On 18 January 2012, Boeing announced that the fourth WGS satellite the company is delivering to the USAF has successfully completed prelaunch testing and is ready for launch. WGS-4, the first spacecraft in the program's upgraded Block II series, is scheduled to launch at 7:38 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 19 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
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